Okay, raise your hand if you remember last year’s brouhaha regarding Sarah Palin charging the state of Alaska $17,000 in per diem so that she could live in her Wasilla home while the governor's mansion underwent renovations. I’m guessing that most of your hands went up (or would have, if we were actually in a room together). Well, one of the main people pushing that story was then-State Senator Kim Elton – who has since received a cushy presidential appointment as the Department of the Interior’s Director of Alaska Affairs. However, it now appears that Sen. Elton was himself charging the state even more in per diem. Not only that, it appears that unlike Palin – who was actually billling the state for legitimate expenses - Elton seems to have been abusing the process.
I have a source in Alaska who did some digging through the “Alaska Legislature 2008 Salary and Business Expense Report” – put out by the state’s Legislative Affairs Agency - and it’s truly amazing what was going on. According to my source, Elton charged the state a grand total of $20,681.25 in per diem for the year 2008 – several thousand dollars more than Gov. Palin. That comes out to $122.25 per day through the normal legislative session between January 15 and April 15. Then he charged $160.50 per day for two of the year’s four special sessions (30 days each). So, just on these facts alone, the man is far more “guilty” than the Governor when it comes to per diem.
But then again, travel and lodging costs a lot for legislators in Alaska. It’s a big state, and legislators from far-flung corners of the Great White North have to move to the remote capital of Juneau for the 90-day legislative session. So, for the most part, it is acceptable for these people to collect per diem for their services. It must have been horribly expensive for Sen. Elton, considering that he represents a town of only a few thousand people that is accessible only by boat. It must have cost an arm and a leg for him to get to work from his home town of Juneau!
Yes, you read that correctly. While he was ragging on Sarah Palin for expensing her commutes to Wasilla, Kim Elton was ripping off thousands of dollars from the State of Alaska. While what he did it perfectly legal, I fail to see why he needed more than $20,000 in food and lodging expenses to pay for the quick drive from his house to the Capitol Building. I might also add that, while I only have numbers from last year, Elton charged per diem every year during his decade in the State Senate. Palin, on the other hand, actually charged far less per diem than the previous two governors, who billed the state to live in hotels and rent apartments in Anchorage.
Now, this might seem like a regional story, but in this case, Palin's per diem became a national issue. So, if Kim Elton wanted to ensure that the world found out all about Sarah Palin's use of state funds, then it’s only fair that we examine Elton's own use (and abuse) of said funds– especially since the man seems to have been handsomely rewarded for his efforts against Gov. Palin (he was head of the Legislative Council that "handled" the "Troopergate" mess). Then again, his new job may also be due to his close relationship with Pete Rouse - a former co-worker who served as chief of staff to a young senator named Barack Obama.
People who live in glass houses….